Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Curriculum Management Creatures

Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Curriculum Management Creatures

Article excerpt

They're big. They're complex. They're powerful. But once your friend, they'll go a long way toward helping you align curriculum to standards, sort through learning resources, design lessons, track and assess student progress, and more. Here, we look at six behemoths.

Never simple, the task of developing and managing sound curriculum has become more complicated than ever. Today's educator must ensure that curriculum conforms to a broad range of national standards, performance benchmarks, state frameworks, and district requirements. And students must be prepared for a host of newly mandated tests, as well. Though freedom from single-textbook dependence can translate into a liberating new diversity in approaches to learning, it also means teachers must sift through a bewildering maze of software, videodiscs, Web sites, film, and printed material to choose the best and most appropriate resources for their students. Fortunately, software publishers are developing a range of powerful and effective tools that can help.

After looking closely, we discovered that the six programs slated for this roundup were quite different in many ways. One of the major differences is that they fall roughly into two groups: curriculum designing and implementation tools for educator use only; and computer-assisted instructional programs for students, with various curriculum management functions for educators. All, however, focus on helping educators ensure that what they teach is in line with the growing body of expectations generated by the current standards movement.

These packages are huge, complex creatures. Each is built upon an extensive relational database of thousands of individual records, all linked together in an intricate digital web. Even the simplest of the products has a variety of functions and features, so getting a handle on what they are and what they do was a challenge. We started by looking at the product's Web site and reviewing documentation provided by the publisher. Next, we arranged for in-depth demonstrations. Whenever possible, we put our own hands to the keyboard and tried using the product for a while ourselves. Finally, we sought to contact users in the field for their opinions.

The following reviews include a summary description of each product as well as our personal impressions of its usefulness. The accompanying chart will quickly give you a sense of how the products compare. Before going on, however, a caveat is in order. Though we have done our best to ensure accuracy in what we are reporting, these programs are large, multifaceted, and constantly in revision (also, not inexpensive). It would be unwise to base a purchasing decision solely on what you read here. Use this information to get an overview of these tools and to prepare yourself to be an "educated shopper." Before you buy, talk to the publishers and try the latest versions for yourself to be sure what they offer is what you really need.

For Educator and Student Use

ClassWorks Gold

(Knowledge Adventure)

No matter how extensive a school's software collection, if teachers don't have time to review programs to determine how they integrate into the curriculum, the result may be underuse of potentially valuable tools. ClassWorks Gold is designed to unburden the teacher of this task by providing an extensive library of software titles whose individual activities are correlated to a variety of standards and frameworks.

This system combines a library of software products with management tools and support for curriculum integration. Currently, the package offers content in language arts and mathematics, available in K-3, 4-6, or 6-8 grade level configurations. The package includes assessment and reporting tools, software library, curriculum and alignment tools, and e-mail that works within the network.

With the exception of Texas and Florida (for which special versions of ClassWorks have been developed), the curriculum outcomes built into the ClassWorks system are not strictly aligned to a state's standards and testing systems. …

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